CRN contributors pick their favorite anime and manga from 2013!
2013 wasn't quite as exciting a year as 2011 or 2012, because the World Cup and Olympics never fall on odd-numbered years and there's no impending apocalypse that we know of. However, on the anime and manga front, there were plenty of great titles that we here at Crunchyroll News enjoyed. What were our favorites? Check 'em out...
Kill la Kill- Trigger started out strong among anime fans with ridiculous web animation like Inferno Cop and the more universally praised Little Witch Academia, but once Kill la Kill was announced I knew we were in for something really special. It certainly didn't hurt that it featured direction and writing from Gurren Lagann veterans Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima, and it didn't take more than a single episode to see the promise of the series. The fanservice can be kind of embarrassing at times, but more than anything Kill la Kill represents the purpose of animation with its insanely kinetic action and wild sense of imagination.
Gatchaman Crowds- I wasn't entirely sure what Kenji Nakamura (Tsuritama) could bring to the table with Gatchaman Crowds; I didn't even know what to make of the character designs when I first saw them. Once Crowds kicked into gear, though, any sense of curmudgeonly skepticism and stubborn loyalty to the original Gatchaman went right out the window. Crowds has one of the year's best protagonists in Hajime, and I'm not sure I saw a more overall satisfying and confident 12-episode run in 2013.
Attack on Titan- Does everyone have this on their lists? It's understandable if that's not the case, because Attack on Titan isn't for everyone. What Titan has, however, is the power to reach a wider audience through its gruesome, hopeless story of humanity trying to take their world back from a towering and enigmatic force. I'm not fully caught up on the manga, but no series has left me with such an intense desire to find out what happens in a long time. Despite creator Hajime Isayama's relative inexperience, he knows how to craft some fun twists and turns.
Flowers of Evil- Shuzo Oshimi's Flowers of Evil manga has been one of my favorite releases from Vertical, Inc., so I was really looking forward to the anime prior to its debut. It's no surprise that it ended up being such a polarizing show, but I can't think of a more befitting style than its rotoscoped look, which perfectly played to the strengths of the source material. Flowers of Evil had at least one moment that was just as exhilarating and expertly executed as any scene of bombastic action produced this year.
Attack on Titan- The best part about watching Attack on Titan came from already having read a large chunk of the manga, knowing what was going to happen next, and then seeing the reactions of people who were new to the series. The latter half of the first cour had some major pacing problems (how long were they supposed to have been fighting in Trost?), but some very cruelly-placed cliffhangers ensured that you'd come back for more.
Ishida & Asakura- The most innovative anime of 2013, pure genius oozing from every pore. The depth of character and whip-smart comedy OH THE HELL WITH IT I CAN'T KEEP THIS UP. This series is hilarious for the sheer, baldfaced stupidity of it all, and I can't help but absolutely love it. Thank God that episodes aren't longer than a few minutes--I don't think I could take thirty straight minutes of Ishida & Asakura.
Kill la Kill- Whoo, boy. While I'm only the slightest bit embarassed to actually be watching this show with people for the sheer amount of shameless fanservice, at its core Kill la Kill is a nonstop action extravaganza (with unusually intelligent symbolism) whose momentum never, ever slows down. I can't wait to see what its second half brings us.
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III - Eclipse- I watch a lot of these shows because they make me feel good, they have a lot of positive energy and can-do attitude. I watch (or read) Berserk whenever I need to be brought back down to Earth, then dragged kicking and screaming into the depths of Hell itself, because no other series does it better (okay, maybe The Walking Dead). After the dizzying highs and hard-won victories of the last two movies, everything comes crashing down in one of the most spectacular scenes of horror in fiction: the Eclipse, now in HD for like forty freaking minutes! Hooray!
Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting! - Rising- My favorite sports anime ever comes back for another round! While it had some pacing problems in the beginning (going way too fast, as opposed to Titan's ridiculous molasses crawl), it's quickly gone back to the way it should be, with a nice, even ebb and flow between in-depth training segments that actually matter and vicious, technical boxing matches.
Samurai Flamenco- Probably my favorite of the current season, Samurai Flamenco plays its cards pretty close to the chest, telling a simple story of a real-world "superhero" who's really just a model in a bicycle helmet, sunglasses, and a homemade costume. It's all goofy day-to-day hijinx until things escalate very quickly, and hometown hero Samurai Flamenco is in way over his head. The story found a good stopping point recently, so I'm wondering just what on Earth can possibly happen next.
Beyond the Boundary- I hadn't been following this one at all, and then suddenly I marathon almost the entire series in one go! KyoAni showed amazing restraint in terms of moeblob fanserviceyness, while going batshit bonkers insane with the animation. What really gets me, though, are the characters--they all have little individual visual ticks! They screw up sometimes! They get weird in a way that people do, but anime characters often don't, and it's so damn satisfying! Oh yeah, and there's a lot of absolutely jaw-dropping action. This is a good show!
Kuroko's Basketball- That opening. That opening. Seriously, between basketball players standing in the middle of whirlwinds, lightning shooting from their eyes, and Kuroko performing a Hadouken on a ball, you can get some pretty high hopes for what you're actually getting in the show... thankfully, it doesn't disappoint, for a second year in a row. IRON HEART FAN FOR LIFE, YO, RIGHT OF POSTPONEMENT UP IN THE HEEZY
Silver Spoon- "Hey guys, let's watch this new anime, it's called Silver Spoon, it's from the author of Fullmetal Alchemist!" "Awesome, what's it about?" "FARMING!" While a bunch of people checked out at that point (their freakin' loss), the rest of us got to enjoy Hiromu Arakawa's great characterization and storytelling, along with an almost pornographic (and sometimes heartbreaking) depiction of the wonders of food.
2013 titles I'm definitely watching in 2014: The Eccentric Family, Kyousougiga, and Gatchaman Crowds.
Attack on Titan- The first episode left me gobsmacked, and the freight train of violence, destruction, despair and monster mayhem just never let up. Attack on Titan dominated my year; I couldn't stop talking about it, watching it, or pre-ordering merch from it. One of the best things about this show, though, was the fan craziness surrounding it. I love watching other anime fans freak out about something as much as I do, and this show spawned incredibly creative stuff, like cosplay, internet funnies, abridged videos and countless other things that kept me obsessing all year long.
Flowers of Evil- Though the entirety of Flowers of Evil made for a darkly fascinating watch, one moment in particular left me in awe of what anime--and a rotoscoped anime at that--can do. If the mark of greatness is life imitating art, then Flowers of Evil achieved greatness like no other this year when two Japanese girls acted out its iconic (and criminal) scene. This show, which merged unconventional beauty and a compelling yet unsettling atmosphere touched a place Milton refers to as divinest melancholy--bittersweet, haunting and just a perfect hint of not right.
Kill la Kill- Studio Trigger's specialty might just be unbridled fun. From the opening scene of Kill la Kill, we all knew that what was coming would be over-the-top, goofy, and a seriously fun ride. Its devil-may-care attitude towards logic, physics and anything serious or grounded in reality combined with an unapologetic fanservice that, more often than not, watches like satire of actual fanservice, makes this show one of the most enjoyable things that happened to my whole year. You can't help but love these characters--good guys and bad guys alike--and can almost hear Kamina and Simon standing at the back of the room applauding.
Chihayafuru 2- I have a hard time quantifying my obsession with this show, but I think it has a little something to do with the combination of the shounen-like storytelling method and incredibly compelling characters. Though there aren't any super powered fight scenes, the karuta matches utilize internal struggles, flashbacks and, quite frequently, a sudden increase in power level. It's the characters, though, that set this show, apart from other card playing shows; it's impossible to watch Chihayafuru and not care deeply about these people and their lives. They are complicated, nuanced and multi-faceted.
RWBY- Though it's made in Austin, Texas, RWBY, a collection of five-to-fifteen minute episodes, ranks in my favorite anime of the year because director and creator Monty Oum set out to make an anime. It features a lot of aspects that make for a great anime; good characters, great humor, excellent action and an art style that, while a little closer to video games than anime, was fun to look at. I'm very much looking forward to the second season, because one of the things that RWBY excels at is building a wide and fascinating world. This show is bigger than one season, and while the first season featured many things that can be considered epic, it leaves you with that "you ain't seen nuthin' yet" feeling.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet- Gen Urobuchi is a name that makes a lot of anime fans--myself included--sit up and take notice. Though Gargantia is brighter--both in color palette and tone--than most of his works, it does feature a very dark underbelly that will satisfy his fans. Chamber, the robot, was my favorite character--especially his dry and understated humor.
The Eccentric Family- A lot of people have talked about how Eccentric Family is an accurate portrayal of family, and while this is absolutely true, it's also an accurate portrayal of the way the loss of a loved one changes us. For anyone who has lost a parent, a sibling, or any particularly close person, what the strange and wonderful characters of this show go through is utterly poignant and beautiful. It also has a humor all its own, and a group of underdogs (er, under tanuki?) you can't help but root for. It's also one of the prettier-to-look-at shows of the year.
The Eccentric Family- When I first heard that another novel by the author of The Tatami Galaxy was being picked up for an anime adaptation, I was excited thanks to Yuasa's capable hand. What I didn't expect was an intense, honest look at what it means to be a family. That it was set within one of the most accurate depictions of Kyoto ever put to digital ink and paint (or was it celluloid?) made the adaptation more involving and at times moving. Do yourself a big favor and watch this. It may not have the immediate flashiness of other series this year, but it's a solid story, and that's really all that matters.
Kyousougiga- From its origins as a net animation that was posted on YouTube without subtitles in 2011, the face that Kyousougiga made the jump to a full series should be cause for celebration on its own. The fact that the series itself manages not only to keep the energy of the original episode, and even manages to surpass everyone's expectations with a solid heartwarming story that is at times emotionally gripping means that Toei and Banpresto have a real gem in their hands. I can't think of a single negative word said about the series, and everyone I've personally suggested the series to loves it.
Kill la Kill- When Studio Trigger announced this as their first series, I have to admit I had my doubts. It's one thing to go from Inferno Cop to Little Witch Academia and wonder about what the studio is capable of, but any doubts I had were quickly put to rest with Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima behind it. Being a massive fan of Imaishi's work since Dead Leaves, I hoped that Kill la Kill would continue his trademark kinetic style that was best exmplified by Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and I wasn't disappointed. Many have had some issues with the fanservice and Imaishi's seeming lack of restraint in terms of pacing, but to me, these are what make the show so damned vital and exciting.
Flowers of Evil- When I broke the news that the anime adaptation of the manga would be done by Studio ZEXCS, many fans expressed legitimate concern that the adaptation wouldn't look technically proficient. What we got instead was a stroke of genius with rotoscoped animation and a visual representation of the ever-present sense of dread, isolation, and nihilism present in the manga. That the anime also really focused on those feelings and amplified certain situations in the manga tenfold added to its greatness.
The look of the show sure pissed off a lot of anime fans for being outside of what was considered technically-proficient or even appropriate for an anime adaptation, but I like to think of it as Nagahama and Oshimi's middle finger to present animation conventions, much like Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed was a middle finger to both his record company and his fanbase. Flowers of Evil may not be appreciated now, but just like Metal Machine Music today, it will stand as a keystone for future anime fans that studios were still willing to take big risks, even at the cost of sales.
Attack on Titan- What can I say about Attack on Titan that hasn't already been said? Outside of focusing on Studio WIT and its perpetual issues while the series was being produced, the series took a great manga and opened it up to a much wider audience that easily caught everyone involved in its production off-guard. It didn't hurt that it was compelling to watch and that even the non-anime fans in my local group of friends were eagerly awaiting each weekly episode with baited breath, a testament to its appeal outside of the fanbase. It's not quite at the level of popularity that DBZ seems to enjoy, but with the merchandising onslaught and future English home video release next year, it just might stick around longer in terms of popularity than the typical series.
Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club- No words can truly describe how I feel about this anime. The friendship, the conflict, the competition, the fun times and all the ripped bodies in water that are all so precious in my eyes decorated the summer of 2013 with extra sparkles, and before we knew it, we were all Splash Free. All I can is thank you, KyoAni and director Utsumi for turning the epic short ad into reality (in anime form). I hope to see the boys again in the summer of 2014.
Beyond the Boundary- This anime really helped lift my spirits after Free! ended. It's not like I'm plugging KyoAni or anything, but this is another great anime in my opinion for the perfect blend of action, love, comedy and idol worship. Mirai and Akihito's backgrounds were both serious and sad, but their personalities were successfully placed in the normal school setting, which I think made them realistic and believable as characters. Personally, I would like to know more about Akihito's mom.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU- Although there are so many charming heroines like Yukino, Yui, Totsuka, Hiratsuka-sensei and the author's favorite, Komachi, the reason I watched the show was Hachiman Hikigaya. Hachiman is extremely smart, self-sacrificing and awkward to the point that he was adorable and I was really glad that the heroines were able to see his kind heart inside to ultimately like him.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet- This anime is said to be done by the "Shirobuchi" side of Gen Urobuchi, and it successfully kept the clean, wholesome anime feel for most of the story. Fresh and healthy heroines jumping up and down with super-innocent Ledo as they teach him the way of living on the ship was very refreshing to watch every week, although Chamber totally stole the show in the end.
Uta no Prince-sama Maji LOVE 2000%- Many otome game-based anime fail to satisfy the high expectations of fans, but the second season of UtaPri was so much fun to watch! I think by now, many UtaPri fans watch the anime more for the comedy aspects than the pure otome scenes because the comedy is so out-of-this-world and hilarious, I had so much fun looking at the memes made after each episode on the internet. I have to say STA☆RISH's Happy Pulse was overwhelmingly enjoyable.
Silver Spoon- Hachiken's struggle is something that many of us can identify with, and through his revelations, I felt a sense of release because this anime reminds you that there is more to life than all the things that we distract ourselves with, that the important things are sometimes really simple and that we are already surrounded with things that we can appreciate, like the raw egg over a bowl of white rice.
Genshiken Second Season- I may not have gotten all of the story since I haven't watched the first season yet, but the anime was interesting enough for me to enjoy without the knowledge of the first season. Every single character in the show was interesting, adorable, and had a side you could identify with, but I especially enjoyed the many HatoMada jokes in the series.
Servant X Service- To be honest, I was not expecting this anime to be this enjoyable before I started watching it. The idea of an anime about civil servants sounded really boring at first, but I was completely wrong. While there are no mecha, Titans, or talking school uniforms, a love story between a girl with a really long name and a guy who doesn't take anything seriously kept me coming back every week for a new episode.
Gintama The Movie: The Final Chapter - Be Forever Yorozuya- I know the movie hasn't come to the US market yet, but I honestly believe this is one of the best Gintama stories yet. I was not going to accept that the Gintama anime is ending at that this is the final chapter and all, but after watching the movie twice in theaters in Japan, I feel like I can finally pretend that I can accept it, because the movie concluded so nicely that maybe the Yorozuya is forever.
Honorable Mention: Katanagatari- I was so happy that FujiTV's noitaminA revived this Nishio Ishin masterpiece and broadcast it again in 2013. Shichika is Yoshimasa Hosoya's first main role in anime and he fully exhibited his acting skills by voicing a cahracter who initially had no feelings and developed him into a man who could feel, cry, and become capable of loving someone. Beautiful animation, interesting story and awesome actors made this show worth bringing back again.
And that wraps up Part One! Be sure to drop by same time tomorrow to check out Part Two: CRN's favorite VIDEO GAMES of 2013!
What were your favorite anime and manga of 2013? Sound off in the comments, but keep it civil and try to keep the spoilers in check!